The 30th Wisconsin Badgers player drafted in the first round in school history was outside linebacker T.J. Watt.
“I knew schematically it was a great fit for me, and that’s why I was intrigued by them so much,” Watt said in the introductory conference call with media on Thursday night. “I had dinner with them right before my pro day, and I worked out with them on my pro day as well. So, they did show quite a bit of interest, but after my pro day, it kind of tapered off. So that was probably the point where I didn’t know. But I had a feeling come draft night that it was a really good match for me and a really good fit. I thought that it could happen.”
Watt noted that dinner before Wisconsin’s Pro Day was attended by Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin, outside linebackers coach Joey Porter, general manager Kevin Colbert, Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst and fellow outside linebacker Vince Biegel, among others.
On that Pro Day on March 15 inside the McClain Center, Porter worked out both Watt and Biegel for position drills. Now, the Pewaukee, Wis. native will have the chance to learn from the likes of James Harrison.
“I have watched him for years growing up, and especially since I switched over to defense,” Watt said, “I have watched him more and more. He is a really good, veteran presence. He is a really good football player. I can’t wait to get under the tutelage of him and that locker room.”
T.J. Watt breaks down NFL Draft talk at Wisconsin Pro Day (B5Q/YouTube)
Here are the other highlights from his introductory conference all from Thursday evening, with all transcription courtesy of the Steelers [note: we’ll provide highlights of his Friday press conference in Pittsburgh tomorrow]:
Re: Mock drafts had you going to the Packers:
[Laughs] “I am not upset at all. I am ecstatic to be a Pittsburgh Steeler. It is still crazy to say it. It’s insane. I saw the Packers trade back, and I knew right away that there was a really good possibility that I could end up in Pittsburgh, and I am so happy that it happened.”
Were the Packers your favorite team yesterday?
[Laughs] “No. I honestly did not have a favorite team coming into this whole process. I grew up watching my brothers play football. I didn’t really have a favorite team.”
Re: Coach Chryst’s ties with the Steelers and if he knew of their interest in you:
“I don’t know what their talks were individually. I know Coach Chryst spent a good amount of time there when he was coaching at Pitt. He was at dinner that night with us as well. I am sure they probably exchanged lengthy conversations on the type of player I am and the type of person I am. I am glad he was on my side, because it all worked out really well.”
Re: Just starting to scratch the surface:
“Yeah, and that’s my selling point. I was a first or second-team All-American on 18 months of playing defense. I am truly scratching the surface on what I can do. I feel like the sky is the limit for what I can do on the field.”
Re: Embracing the move to linebacker from tight end:
“When they approached me about the move, I think it took me all of 12 hours, if that. I kind of went home and thought about it, and came back and told Coach that I wanted to play defense.”
Re: Steelers playing so much nickel defense and how you prepare for that:
“That’s something that I have been doing throughout my whole career at Wisconsin, and in these past two years. I think that’s why I translate so well to the defense. I am showing on film that I can play a three-technique if I really have to. I can set the edge really well, and I can get after the passer. I think that’s ultimately what makes a really good football player, and I think having great players around me is what is going to make us a great team.”
Where did you play in 2015? Were you a backup outside linebacker?
“Yeah, I played backup outside linebacker. And I played as a defensive lineman in our nickel package.”
So the move from tight end was the spring of 2015?
Re: Matchup on Christmas in Houston against your brother J.J.:
“It will be weird to be on the same field as J.J. in shoulder pads. I was just thinking about that. I played with him in the backyard, and I have seen him play a bunch, but we’ve never been on the same field in full uniforms, competitively, before. I think that will be a really cool and kind of weird day for me.”
Has J.J. reached out to you yet, or have you reached out to him?
“No, my phone is absolutely blowing up. They are probably mad at me right now, because I haven’t talked to them.”
Re: Creating your own path:
“Obviously everybody knows me as J.J.’s younger brother, but people don’t know the little things, the work ethic, the countless hours of film study. Doing all the little things, like getting the right amount of sleep, hydration, just treating myself like a professional athlete while I was still in college. I think I have learned so much from J.J. and I have been able to translate that to myself. I don’t think people really even know who I am at this point, just because I have been in such a big shadow, and that’s why I cannot wait to get to Pittsburgh and kind of become my own person.”
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin talks about TJ Watt (TribSports/YouTube)
Re: Combine numbers and if that surprised you:
“Not at all. I knew coming into the Combine that I was going to have great numbers. I don’t know. People were kind of surprised by them. Me and the people that are around me weren’t surfside at all.”
Re: Agility times and shuttles were similar to cornerbacks:
“Yeah. It’s just being able to bend and getting out of cuts, repetition after repetition, and taking the Combine process really seriously, and it showed during the Combine.”
Re: Coach Tomlin and Kevin Colbert said they liked how you used your hands already and where you want to see yourself improve:
“I think I need to get better in every single aspect of my game. obviously as a rookie in the NFL, you are going to have to adjust to many things. But I think one of the biggest things to me is still developing my pass coverage skills and dropping back into coverage. But I think that will come to me, and I don’t think that will be a problem at all.”